How To Prepare for Barcelona, Spain (Or Barcelona Tips and Tricks so that You Don’t Screw Up Your Barcelona Vacation as Much as I Did)
Do you feel a sense of foreboding emanating from the words, “Barcelona tips and tricks“?
No, I’m not referring to some hidden pheromone in this Barcelona blog post that will bring all the boys to my yard, without any use of my milkshake.
Okay yeah, that was probably not the set of Barcelona tips from locals that you were hoping for.
Quickly moving away (or running) from the weirdness.
What I’m trying to say rather crapily is that my Barcelona trip recommendations are based on the fact that my trip to Barcelona was one big disaster.
I mean, I loved Barcelona but Barcelona didn’t love me.
Yup, everything that could go wrong did. So let’s take a walk through my vacation in Barcelona, where we can laugh at my stupidity and then use my mistakes to help you learn how to prepare for Barcelona, Spain.
1. Make Sure You Have a Debit Card
As we all know, since it’s painfully obvious, I’m a silly American.
As such, I assumed that any and every country in Europe accepted credit cards as a valid form of payment.
Yeah, that’s a hard no.
That’s why one of my biggest Barcelona tricks and tips is to carry either cash or a debit card with you at all times.
Well dear reader, when you try and pay with a credit card, the machine will ask you for your pin number. And since credit cards don’t have pin numbers, the transaction will not go through.
So don’t be like me and carry only have a credit card, with literally no other way to pay for your meal (this really did happen and I thought I was going to spend the night washing dishes).
2. Try and Blend in with the Locals
Here in America, we value individualism and the right to be as weird as you want, rainbow-colored hair and all.
And while I applaud this and unequivocally say, “Bring on the weirdness”, this characteristic is not a virtue when traveling to Barcelona.
No, they don’t have some cultural aversion to individuality.
Rather, pickpockets are rampant throughout the city. Therefore, anything that helps you blend in more as a local and look less like a tourist will help draw the pickpocket’s attention away from you.
Trust me on this one:
I wore a neon green fleece and carried a bright pink backpack; almost as though I was carrying a vibrantly colored sign that called out for criminals in the area to “Plunder me. Rich American tourist walking”.
Do this and your Barcelona vacations will go much more smoothly than mine.
Which brings me to my next Barcelona travel tip…
3. Don’t Carry All Your Cash and Credit Cards on You at One Time
Talk about one of the BIGGEST travel mistakes of all time.
Okay, as you can guess, my wallet was not so surprisingly stolen while I was walking through the metro.
See, I had gotten way too complacent after having no real travel problems while exploring Asia and South America.
I stupidly thought that I was impervious to any and all travel disasters. As a result, I carried almost the entire contents of my wallet with me while I was discovering the amazing things to do in Barcelona.
So don’t be like me and be careful.
You don’t want to spend one of your precious Barcelona vacation days frantically calling your bank, begging them to send you some money.
Yup, this chore is probably even more un-fun than it sounds.
4. Don’t Rush Through Everything
Look, I Understand:
If you’re American then you get MAYBE two weeks of solid vacation time each year. Therefore, your natural inclination is to rush around and see as much as humanly possible while traveling in Spain.
Yeah, Don’t Do That.
Instead, think of the overly cliched phrase, “Quality over Quantity”., which holds true for any visit to Barcelona, Spain.
There are so many top attractions in Barcelona, Spain that if you rush through the city, you’ll never get to relax and savor them all.
So Take a Deep Breath and Go Slowly:
Take some time to explore La Sagrada Familia and really take in all the exquisite work of Gaudi here on your very own, Barcelona Gaudi Tour.
You Can Also:
Stroll through Park Güell, Parc del Laberint d’Horta, and Montjuïc, sit on a bench, sip on some coffee from Onna Cafe (or Satan’s Coffee Corner or SKYE coffee co. Some of the best coffee in Barcelona), and really enjoy your surroundings.
So Many Things to Do and So Little Time.
Just remember that the more time you take to fully appreciate the architectural marvels before you, the more likely you are to have the best Barcelona vacation ever (Hopefully. I offer no money back guarantees).
5. Go to the Beach
After sprinting from one Gaudi architectural wonder to the next, I totally forget that Barcelona has some truly incredible beaches.
So as a total afterthought:
I kind of rushed to the beach, sat for five minutes, and rushed back. Yeah, not one of the great Barcelona beach tips out there.
So don’t be like me.
Make some time for to relax at the beach and not run through it as though you were ticking something off your to-do list.
Keep a close eye on your belongings while at the beach. Some of my friends have had their passports stolen because they left their bag on the bach while they were in the water (thank God that didn’t happen to me).
***Some of the best beaches in Barcelona include Barceloneta Beach, Nova Icaria Beach, Bogatell Beach, Mar Bella Beach, Ocata Beach, Caldetes Beach, St Pol de Mar Beach, Castelldefels Beach, etc.
***WARNING: Barceloneta Beach is the MOST popular Barcelona Beach. So while it is worth a visit, it can be insanely crowded during the high season. Therefore, during that time of year, I highly recommend going to one of Barcelona’s smaller and much quieter beaches.
***Valencia, Spain has amazing beaches too. #justsayin
6. Pay Attention at Barcelona Airport
So this tip is kind of embarrassing but whatever.
I’ll sacrifice what little dignity I have left for the greater good.
I Promise, I’ll stop being cryptic.
When I was flying home from Barcelona, Spain, I had arrived insanely early for my night flight because well, I have horrendous anxiety that kicks in if I don’t arrive like three hours early.
So I killed time by shopping and walking through the terminal.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, it was about time to board so I strolled over to my terminal and prepared to board.
Or so I thought…
In reality, I had inadvertently walked out of the airport when I misread a sign. Frantically, as reality slowly hit, I dashed upstairs, threw my bag through security, raced to the gate, and made it just in time.
Wow, I get tired just reading that. So glad it was late at night and the airport was a veritable ghost town.
Anyway, the moral of the story is to always pay attention to signage in the airport.
If you’re confused, like I was:
Don’t be scared to ask for help. The staff is there to help you and don’t mind if you need assistance navigating through the airport.
Me? I let my social anxiety take over, didn’t ask for help, and paid the price.
Talk about a travel fail of Titanic proportions! Haha. I love me a super lame pun. woot!
7. Don’t Eat on Las Ramblas
This one is kind of obvious but clearly, people make this mistake since there are a ton of tourist traps, I mean restaurants, along Las Ramblas.
But Las Ramblas is a must see and the MOST visited street in all of Barcelona.
So it makes sense that for convenience sake, people would eat here. But don’t. It’s a trap. The food is insanely overpriced and the quality is no bueno (not the place to find the best restaurants in Barcelona, Spain.
But how can you tell if a restaurant is a tourist trap?
Do you see a man speaking English and holding an English menu, beckoning you inside? If so then the restaurant is probably a tourist trap.
My rule of thumb:
If the menu comes in five different languages and there is not a local to be found in the place then get out! It’s a trap.
The more locals and the less English, the better.
***Some of my favorite restaurants in Barcelona, Spain include Chiringuito Ananda is a great spot to eat on the beach, Jatachi is a must for great Asian food in Barcelona, Can Massis for great vegetarian menus (they have a great three-course menu of the day for €12.90), and La Milanesa Braseria & Cotoletteria & Pizzeria for great Italian food (non-touristy and a three-course menu for €18.90).
8. Don’t Book Flights to Barcelona, Spain with the Destination “Reus (Barcelona)” or “Girona (Barcelona)”
This is a mistake that I would totally make, oh wait, I did, only in Milan, not Barcelona.
A lot of times, travelers will attempt to book cheap flights to Barcelona via Ryanair.
And that is totally fine.
The problem arises when you try to book your tickets because you can choose from three airports that are supposedly in Barcelona; “El Prat Llobregat (Barcelona)”, “Reus (Barcelona)” and “Girona (Barcelona)”.
Stay far away from flights to Reus and Girona!
Both of these airports are well over a 100 kilometers away from Barcelona. So transport costs to the REAL Barcelona will probably offset any money that you saved on the flight.
Always try and fly into El Prat, the real Barcelona, Spain airport. From here, you can easily and cheaply take either the metro or the Aerobus to the city center.
9. Stay Away from the Bus Turistic
The hop on, hop off bus sounds great right? I mean, one bus that drives you to every major tourist attraction in Barcelona. Pretty awesome right?
First of all, the traffic in Barcelona can be kind of cray cray. As a result, you will spend a lot of your time touring Barcelona just waiting in the bus, hoping that the traffic will clear.
The cost of the bus ticket is insanely expensive at €27.00 for an adult, one day ticket and €36.00 for an adult, two-day ticket.
And even if there is no traffic, there is still no way that you can adequately see all the attractions along the bus route in just two days. Sorry, but it’s not gonna happen. And if it does happen, you’ll probably just end up making yourself miserable.
Purchase a single ride metro ticket for €2.20 (if you want a single ride to the airport, that ticket costs €4.60 or €9.20 roundtrip). An even cheaper option is the T-10 ticket that offers you 10 rides in one zone for €10.20 (does not include a trip to the airport).
***Another cheap option is the HOLA BCN 2 – 5-day travel card. This card gives you unlimited rides on the metro, including trips to and from the airport, and costs €35.00 for five days (or €7.00 a day). A pretty sweet deal. The Barcelona card also gives you unlimited rides on Barcelona public transportation.
10. Don’t Forget to Haggle
Truth be Told:
I am absolute crap at haggling. Somehow I always feel guilty asking to pay less than the suggested price. That and I hate talking to strangers. Part of my socially awkward charm I suppose.
But in Barcelona, Haggling is a THING.
For total novices like me:
Here are some simple steps you can hopefully haggle successfully.
Pretend you’d really like an item for sale, and fawn over it until you get the sales person’s attention.
Ask about the price.
Tell them that it is just too expensive.
Hopefully, they will then lower the price.
Proclaim it’s still too expensive and walk away.
If the salesperson comes after you, BOOM, you’ll get an epic deal.
Pssh, no worries. There are plenty of shops out there. A for effort though!
Tada! My mildly lame attempt at deciphering the fine art of haggling.
You Have Now Mastered Barcelona, Spain Travel. Feel Free to Rejoice!
Okay, maybe mastered is a bit of an overstatement. I mean, I’m not a Barcelona, Spain travel expert. And maybe if I had stayed at some of the best hostels in Barcelona then I wouldn’t have committed some of these epic travel fails,
Oh well, life goes on:
At the very least, you’ll be WAY more prepared than me and hopefully have a much better Barcelona, Spain travel experience.
A Barcelona, Spain vacation that doesn’t include robbery or walking out of the airport or forgetting all forms of payment, except your credit card.
Yeah, don’t be like me.
These are extreme Barcelona Spain travel fouls that you do NOT want to add to your, “What to do in Barcelona, Spain” list.
Feel free to add Barcelona beaches to the aforementioned list (one of the best Barcelona, Spain sttractions).
Just watch out for pickpockets, apply copious amounts of sunscreen, and avoid the crowds for an epic Barcelona, Spain trip.